I’ve always been in love with him, since we were kids. There wasn’t much to explain, except he and I just seemed to fit. We come from different ethnic backgrounds, neither of us white. That fact matters when white is all you’re surrounded by.
We handled that reality differently, and at the same time our families were teaching us similar lessons: Honor, pride, dignity and balance. I wondered if that’s why he meant so much. Familiar in the unfamiliar. Ethnically different and bi-culturally different. Both balancing the white world outside our homes and the culturally poignant reality within our homes.
I think I may have created the barrier of ethnic differences in my head, to be honest. Our families had a lot of respect for one another, and still do. We cross paths every so often, and each time, no time has passed. It is curious that the universe ensures we know the other is doing well.
As I think back, maybe it was me — but isn’t it always like that? You never know what to expect so you think, “I’m definitely out here on a limb, on my own.” I don’t think I knew the kind of love it was at first, not until we got older.
When we were young, it was just the ease of friendship, a quiet understanding of the other’s needs, a balance to outside judgment — we didn’t do that with each other. We were always truly kind to each other. It was later, as a teenager when the answer of whether or not he thought of me too was clumsily answered: an awkward kiss at a party. He’d been drinking and so had I.
We were almost too familiar with each other, almost like siblings. Looking back, I also think I felt he may have been “too good” for me. He was always seemingly excellent at everything. That night, when he leaned in, and definitely ran the other way, I had no idea what to do with all of that.
All these years later, life has happened. He is married, I’m divorced, we both have children and empty nest dynamics, but his smile is just the same. It transforms the entire moment.
Our last encounter, we spoke of the passing of my mom. He was in tears thinking of the fond memories he had with her — as he spoke, I just sat and listened. He hadn’t got a chance to tell her, but wanted me to know to carry it on.
It made me think, how often is it that we hold onto our true feelings and impressions in order to remain familiar. What do we lose in the experience of authenticity? We walk wearing masks, the quiet omissions, the blatant compromises.
In 2022, we live with no regrets. The hope I have for you and for me is to live a little dangerously and tell someone just how their smile brings butterflies to your world, after just a day or even after 40 years, how their presence in this — sometimes unfriendly — world, assures the untethered joy of years to come.
Ayisha Elliott’s podcast Black Girl From Eugene is raw and uncensored monologues and conversations about living while Black in the PNW. Listen locally at 11 am Sundays on FB Live; simulcast on KEPW 97.3 FM. Find it on all major podcasting platforms. You can support BGFE at Patreon.com/Blackgirlfromeugene_1.